Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

About Kati

I've been reading romance for more than 30 years and reviewing regularly for the last five. My first romance was Irish Thoroughbred by Nora Roberts, and once I read it, I was a goner. I read most subgenres of romance (except inspirational and steampunk) but focus mostly on contemporary and paranormal, with a sprinkling of historical thrown in for flavor. I am an avid sports fan, so I have a special place in my heart for sports themed romances. I'm a sucker for old skool romance, which is probably most evident in the fact that The Windflower is my favorite romance of all time.

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REVIEW:  Echoes of Scotland Street by Samantha Young

REVIEW: Echoes of Scotland Street by Samantha Young

EOSS

Dear Ms. Young:

Shannon MacLeod is on the run. She’s fled Glasgow, her home town, to escape her last boyfriend, who beat her to a pulp. She’s come to Edinburgh  to start her life over. First order of business, find a job. She reluctantly goes to INKarnate, an award winning shop in town known for boasting the best tattoo artists. She’s reluctant because she’s a bit of a bad boy magnet, always attracting men who are bad for her, many of whom have abused the trust she puts into them. She knows the chances are high that she’ll meet someone unsuitable. But she tells herself that she’ll just be on her own, finally free to do as she pleases, including honing her skills as an artist, which she’s kept secret since her ex-boyfriend mocked her skills.

She gets the job at the shop, and soon meets Cole Walker, the shop’s manager and lead artist. Fans of the series know Cole. He’s the younger brother of Johanna from Down London Road, book 2 in the series. We first met Cole as a talented child who loved art and wanted to be a tattoo artist when he grew up. Sure enough, Cole is not only a tattoo artist, but a highly sought after one at that. He’s also gorgeous, and a genuinely kind person. Shannon is immediately wary of Cole. He recognizes her immediately, knowing that they met briefly when they were teenagers, but Shannon pretends not to remember, thoroughly intimidated by this obvious bad boy. Cole begins to flirt with Shannon, attracted to her “wee fairy” looks. But Shannon shuts him down in the harshest way possible.

Shannon is dealing with her own issues. On top of having been beaten and nearly raped by her ex-boyfriend, when she left him, she ran straight to her brother, Logan. Logan took it upon himself to beat the boyfriend so badly he was hospitalized. This landed Logan in jail and lead her family to blame her utterly for his imprisonment. Shannon knows they’re right. Her continued bad decisions about men have brought nothing but heartache to her, but now they’re affecting her family too. She’s completely resolved not to get involved with anyone.

But she’s deeply attracted to Cole. She knows that he’d be bad for her, but being around him all the time is torture. Needless to say, Cole is pissed and offended that Shannon made assumptions about the kind of person he is and their cold war is uncomfortable for everyone. Soon Shannon learns that she’s drastically misjudged Cole. Cole is not only universally known as a genuinely good guy, he’s got a wonderful family that loves him and a ton of friends. He’s on good terms with the women he’s been involved with in the past. It turns out Shannon has misjudged him. She apologizes, and Cole decides that they can be friends. But their attraction is still smoldering and one night they end up acting on it. Cole, of course, wants a relationship, but Shannon is afraid. She’s not sure she can trust anyone ever again, and she’s even more afraid that she’ll hurt Cole making him hate her. Cole assures her he realizes the risk, and is willing to take it, but when Shannon’s family insists that Cole is bad for her and she make a choice between them or him, what will she do?

I quite enjoyed this book, which is probably not a surprise to anyone. Cole is a classic Caregiving Alpha, wanting nothing more than to love and adore Shannon. He’s hot, amazing in bed, talented, sweet and generous. What’s not to like? Sadly, Shannon has a harder time than I would have liked learning to trust him. She’s got a ton of baggage and seems to be determined to make Cole carry it, despite the fact that he’s nothing but patient and loving to her. Because this is a New Adult book, I’m generally willing to allow for a level of immaturity from the characters, but Shannon pushing Cole away repeatedly was a bit tiresome. In the end, she messes up big, and at the urging of her brother gives a most excellent grovel, which was refreshing, as I felt strongly that it was her who needed to be worthy of him. Overall though, I felt like this couple was well matched and enjoyable to read. I always love revisiting past characters, and given that Cole and Hannah (the last book’s heroine) are a bit younger than the first group of characters, it’s really fun to see older characters with families now. Your sex scenes continue to be extremely hot and inventive, which I appreciate. In the end, I believed wholeheartedly in Cole and Shannon’s Happily Ever After and was glad to see the series get on back track after what I felt was a miss with Fall from India Place. Echoes of Scotland Street gets a happy recommendation from me. Final grade: B.

Kind regards,
Kati

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REVIEW:  Close Liaisons (The Krinar Chronicles) by Anna Zaires

REVIEW: Close Liaisons (The Krinar Chronicles) by Anna Zaires

CL

Dear Ms. Zaires:

I bought this book because a friend on Twitter was looking for a Sci-Fi book, and Katiebabs suggested this series. She characterized it as “cracktastic” which of course, was enough of a recommendation for me. Generally speaking, I’m probably not the intended audience for Sci-Fi romance. As with Steampunk, I tend to get bogged down in the technology and it distracts me from the story. While this was somewhat the case with this book, it was much more the hero that got my attention.

Mia Stalis is a grad student in New York. She’s a relatively non-descript, hard working kid who is generally overlooked, just because she works hard at not drawing attention to herself. One day while in Central Park, she draws the attention of a Krinar, an alien, named Korum. The Krinar are an alien species who now inhabit the Earth. It turns out that they are from a far away planet and were actually the creators of the human race, which they made in their image. Twenty years ago, they came to Earth, worried that humans were advancing too quickly, destroying Earth and its abundant resources. After K-Day, the day they invaded, and a short war where the human resistance was squashed, the K’s set up “Centers” where they lived and left humankind mostly to themselves. There are awful rumors about the K’s though. That they are vampires who feast on human blood and they’ve outlawed a number of things that mankind was doing (like eating meat) that could have harmed the life expectancy of mankind. But mostly, they are just the ruling class, scary and unknown, but generally leaving mankind alone.

Needless to say, Mia is both baffled and horrified that Korum would show even the vaguest interest in her. He flirts with her, but her responses are stilted. He’s the most beautiful man she’s ever seen, but she’s terrified of him and wants nothing more than to escape his notice and interest. No chance. Not only is Korum interested, but he’s captivated by her beauty and fiestiness that seems to rear its head any time she’s nervous. Given their obvious attraction to each other, Korum is interested in pursuing a sexual relationship with her. Mia is both terrified and elated at his interest. She can’t believe how attracted she is to him, but at the same time, she knows he’s a killer and she’s bound and determined to fight her overwhelming attraction. Korum decides to take it slow, as he knows Mia is a virgin. He explains that even though he really, really wants to, he’ll hold on having sex with her:

“But I’m not a rapist. And that’s what it would be right now – rape – because you’re so frightened of me, and of your own sexuality.”

What a guy. It’s so handy that she has him there to explain that it is in fact NOT her sheer terror that he might kill her that’s making her not want to sleep with him, but instead, it’s her discomfort with her own sexuality. Thank goodness we cleared that up.

Soon enough, they are involved and she agrees to have sex with him. Korum is apparently in possession of a…extraordinarily large appendage, and sex hurts Mia. She has no interest in having sex with him again after the first time and tells him as much. Korum tells her that she in fact will be having lots more sex with him because HE knows she’s attracted to him and wants him, even if she doesn’t. You see, he’s lived for a really long time (the result of all that healthy no meat eating stuff) and he knows that a “connection” like he and Mia have doesn’t come along very often. Despite Mia telling him over and over again that she has no interest in having sex or being in a relationship with him, in fact she tells him over and over that she hates him, he’s decided they will be in a relationship and there will be no more opinions or discussion from Mia on the topic.

And Mia basically acquiesces. On top of that, Mia scrapes her palms at some point during the story, and he heals her using nanotechnology, which puts a tracking device in her, so no matter where she goes, he knows where she is. Christian Grey wishes he had this guy’s stalking ability. He tracks her movements endlessly and shows up at one point to almost strangle to death a boy who shows interest in Mia. Because she’s his toy and no one else’s.

While they are starting their relationship, Mia’s roommate Jessie’s cousin and his friend come to see her. They are part of the Resistance. They are fighting against the K’s, along with the help of a small number of K’s who are sympathetic towards humans…or something. Anyway, the Resistance wants Mia to find out what Korum, who is a leader among his people (some sort of business tycoon), is up to. The friend, John, tells Mia that she’s Korum’s “charl”, his sex slave, and that she’s unlikely to her relationship with Korum, since he’s likely to kill her when he’s done using her for sex. John knows this because his sister disappeared a few years ago, and John knows she’s being kept in a Center, presumably as a sex slave. The Resistance knows if they can neutralize Korum, they have a chance of winning. At first, they just ask Mia for information, but soon they give her a ring that will pull all of the information he has in his palm computer (a literal computer in his palm) so that they have the blue prints to the K’s largest center – sort of like a capital. Even though she’s torn about it, Mia agrees, and seduces Korum, and gets the information from him. She supplies it to the Resistance, but stipulates (probably because she’s got a raging case of Stockholm Syndrome) that Korum is going to receive safe passage back to his home planet. The Resistance agrees (even though Mia hasn’t thought far enough ahead to figure out what will happen when Korum just jumps back on a space ship and comes back to Earth) and they opt to move on the center.

To no one’s surprise, Korum knew EVERYTHING Mia was doing. Why? Probably because Mia is the most obvious spy ever, but also because besides being a well hung tiger in the sack, he’s way smarter than she’ll ever be. Anyway, the Resistance is defeated, Korum is victorious, and he decides that Mia is in so much danger, she can’t go to stay with her family in Florida, she must come to Costa Rica with him where she’ll be safe. Because at this point, Mia has realized that she was very wrong for ever doubting Korum’s motives or anything else, she agrees. The book ends with the two getting off his ship in Costa Rica.

There are two other Volumes in this series. None of which I’ll be reading. This book had issues galore for me. Not the least of which was the fact that the hero starts off an overbearing douchebag, and never ceases being one. The entire time, I kept wondering why Mia would decide to be with him. Except, I knew why, because she was terrified of him. Even at 80% through the book, she positive he is going to kill her. At no time does he express more than warm feelings towards her. He does care for her by buying her new clothes and insisting that she do what he tells her, and sexing her up in various and sundry positions, but generally speaking, he treats her like a housepet. These are two of the most unlikable characters I’ve read in a while.

The worldbuilding is quite good. While I couldn’t exactly picture some of the technology you described, for the most part, I understand the general principles of world’s mythology and was able to suspend disbelief enough to follow the story. I think that you have a gift for writing interesting sex scenes, although the entire cervix ramming and giant appendages part struck me was unnecessary, painful, and overkill. I also think that you have a very confident authorial voice. I thought the book was really well edited and I can understand why so many readers would call this series “cracktastic”. While it didn’t work for me, I get why the book might really work for other readers. For me, I’ll just have to live with never knowing what happens next to Korum and Mia. Final grade: D.

Kind regards,
Kati

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